Associations between sexual behaviour change in young people and decline in HIV prevalence in Zambia

Friday, July 23 2010

Evidence suggests that HIV prevalence amongst young Zambians has declined recently, especially in higher-education groups. The authors of this article studied trends in key sexual behavior indicators among 15-24-year-olds from 1995 to 2003, including the associations between sexual-behavior change and education. They found that men and lower-education groups reported more than one sexual partner in the year immediately prior to the survey more frequently than did women and higher-education groups (p<0.01), but these proportions declined over time regardless of sex and residence.

Substantial delays in child-bearing were observed, particularly among higher-education and urban respondents. Condom use at least for casual sexual intercourse increased from 1995 to 2003; the level was highest among urban and higher-education groups. The number of women reporting frequent dry sex using traditional agents fell during the period.

Participants from the rural area and those with less education reported more sexual experience than urban and higher-education participants in 2003. The reported number of sexual partners during the year immediately prior to the survey was a factor that reduced the association between HIV and survey times among sexually active young urban men and women.

The authors conclude that risk behaviors clearly decreased, especially in higher-educated and urban groups, and there is a probable association here with the decline in HIV prevalence in the study population. Fewer sexual partners and condom use were among the core factors involved for both sexes; and for women, a further factor was delayed child-bearing.

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